"Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come”
Today we celebrate the “Reign of Christ” – and we sing some of my most favorite hymns of the whole year
They are my favorite because they are such great songs of praise and triumph
That the Lord is the victor and the victor over all creation… for all the creation
And that greeting that I opened with is the opening verse from our reading from John’s Revelation
And What a powerful greeting that is
Powerful - yet in the culture of the day… and in today’s culture extremely subversive
It is known as an apostolic benediction
A message or blessing from the early followers of Christ.
The greeting combines both Greek (“grace”) and Hebrew (“peace”)
Grace, that is, the good-will of God towards us and his good work in us;
And peace, that is, the sweet evidence and assurance of this grace.
It is message to not only one group of people - but all people
2000 years ago… and today… a very counter-cultural message
And then we hear: “the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come”…
Since before Abraham He “was” and “is” the "I AM"
And He “is” and "always was", the eternal Word;
Consider the beginning of John’s gospel
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John1:1-5)
Jesus, not only “is” and “always was” but also "who is still to come" - the promise of the Return of Christ
God from everlasting to everlasting
Jesus is the Christ – the messiah – God incarnate.
Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end
Consider the world in which this is written - where the state religion is worship to the emperor - who was understood to be a deity
Where those that believed and declare their belief are seen as being opposed to the emperor and therefore their very lives are in danger
They live with that dark shadow hanging over them
And consider our own culture today where everything is acceptable relative to the eye of the beholder
The Relative truth that seems to rule much of the politically correct conversations
‘What’s true for you is true … as long as you respect what is true for me is my truth’
In the face of those worldviews we declare that today, the end of the Christian year, for next week we beginning our advent preparations – today we declare and celebrate the Reign of Christ
To all the politically correct statements of relative truth
We Christians declare proudly that Jesus is the truth and Jesus the Christ reigns over it all
December 31st might be the end of the standard calendar year, but today marks the end Christian year
For this wonderful day we are given this inclusive greeting (Grace and Peace) and YET also a greeting which states the primacy of Christ
This was challenging to the people of the Roman empire… and is truly challenging today and for any worldly culture - at any time.
In that message of Christ in the past, present and future - everlasting to everlasting
there is a message of completeness
And in fact the entire reading from Revelation today is a message of completeness
We are given by John’s vision, John’s revelation that this is from the seven spirits
Where the Holy Spirit, called the seven spirits, it is not to be understood as seven in number,
Symbolically seven in Hebrew writing stands for completeness or wholeness
So the seven spirits speak of the infinite perfect Spirit of God, in whom there is a diversity of gifts and operations.
The message of completeness continues with the mention of Christ as the “firstborn of the dead, and ruler of the kings of the earth”
And “to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever”
In this short passage, 5 verses, from Revelations John opens the stage to a limitless vision
In my efforts this past week of sermon preparations – I looked in vain for an illustration to help understand “the Reign of Christ”
It was in vain because nothing compares to Christ – nothing ever has – nothing ever will
The Book of Revelations for some, is the most difficult book in the whole bible to understand.
That is mostly to do with the fact that we don’t think in the same apocalyptic way of the Middle-east of 2000 years ago
However Revelations provides an incredible vision.
It is the product of the marriage of hope with despair, of promise with pain.
It is a book / dream / vision / poem / letter written by John, an Apostle and disciple of Jesus
God through the words of Revelation offers us a vision of a brand new life;
A life lived in a brand new order in a brand new way.
The book of Revelations does presents to us some confusing and frightening images
Serpents and lakes of fire, and demented creatures
- but don’t be distracted by that – that is merely a style of story-telling
What we are to see through all of that, is the message that John intended
And it speaks precisely to what we are celebrating today “the reign of Christ – that Christ is the King
The results of the Reign of Christ are all around us - if we have eyes to see them
We Christians, as we say the Lord’s prayer – as we pray for… and also set in motion the goal of
“Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven”
And so we see Christ reign when we see God’s kingdom on earth
It could be a simple as the loving gesture of someone opening the door for another
Or could be as grand as when a community gets united together to raise funds for the life changing missions of the United way, as Brantford is campaigning to do right now
In the words of Louis Armstrong’s great song – What a Wonderful World
“I see friends shaking hands, saying… how do you do, they’re are really saying ‘I love you’”
The results of Christ’s reign can be seen in the face of our children as they aided in worship service of Remembrance Day
And it is in the hands that volunteered for the church bazaar and with love and charity welcomed outsiders into our church… God’s church
The results are legion and all around us - if we have eyes to see them
One of the key themes of this message today, and all of revelations, is Christ’s dominion over all things
· No matter what comes against you in this life;
· No matter if all of the power of pain and chaos of the universe seems to overtake you all at once;
· No matter if you can not control one single thing or fix one single thing in your life,
The worst is over, the healing has already begun.
The lamb is on the throne.
Revelations, understood for our day, beyond the style of story
We have the nature of hope…. For Christians hope is not a wish:
- It is not a lucky rabbit’s foot
- Or fingers crossed
- Or just one more 649 lottery try.
Hope, for a Christian is an assurance … A firm and binding promise.
It is a sure thing. …Hope is not a feeling - It is a fact!
It is a fact rooted in the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
And assured by the amazing, steadfast, unshakable love of God for God's people.
God will not be shaken.
Hope is independent of circumstances and it ‘will never be’ conquered by evil. Even if hurt seems to be winning,
The battle by God - has already been won.
God paints a sustaining vision,
A vision wholeness,
A vision of things the way God intended.
A vision, in the midst of struggle and pain - there is the promise of glory.
Over the Christian year there is a kind of journey through the mysteries of salvation.
The end of the year, which we mark today, brings us to the end of the journey,
And here we find the victorious Christ enthroned in glory…
In faith we believe that He has indeed conquered the forces of sin and death,
And he is already enthroned with God the Father.
In anticipation, we look forward to his final glorious appearance.
We are living in the ‘here and now’ with the God that “is” “always was” and “is to come”
Today as we celebrate the “Reign of Christ” the end of Christian calendar year
We celebrate the triumph that is Christ’s dominion over all
Celebrate because the victory is offered to all of us
Let us pray - Christ was in the beginning, all things were made through him, He is here now and He is the promise, the hope on which our faith is rooted. Jesus, be the beginning and the goal of our lives, Come Lord Jesus, come reign in our lives - Amen